How To Be Successful When You're Working in Teams

In your MBA career, and after, you’ll be working on a lot of teams. They'll include people from different backgrounds, with different strengths, and different workstyles. You’ll want to set up these teams for success so you can grow as an individual and as an effective team member.

Here's how.

Get to know your team members. In order to build trust and comfort, get to know your team members. Share something personal about yourself to open up the dialogue, and other people will start to feel comfortable too. Once that trust is established, working together for a semester or for years to come will be much easier. You might even learn something really cool you didn’t know about your teammates.

Set up shared goals, roles, and norms. It’s important that everyone in the group is on the same page when it comes to the team goals, the roles roles each person plays, and expectations for the team. Make sure you establish these early and collectively, so that everyone is on board. Decide what the main goal of the team is: to have the best presentation, to learn the most about the subject, etc. Then decide what needs to be done and who wants to do what. This might include traditional roles, such as a timekeeper, or nontraditional ones, such as the person who warns the team members they’re going down a rabbit hole. And then finally, determine what constitutes normal behavior for the team? Does everyone get five minutes to speak about their thoughts on the issue before going into a team discussion? Maybe everyone gets to leisurely chat and catch up for the first 10 minutes of every meeting before getting into the classwork. Norms matter because they drive the level of comfort the team has with each other, and hold everyone to the same expectations.

Share accountability across the team. It’s easy to assume that each team has one leader, and they have the authority to set expectations and dole out criticism when team members aren’t sticking to the goals, roles, and norms of the team. But that’s definitely not the case. It’s important that everyone holds all team members accountable. If the established expectations have been decided on collectively and there is trust, every team member should feel confident calling each other out if things fall through the cracks. This way one person isn’t the “bad guy” and everyone feels connected to the outcomes and success of the team.

–By Samprithi “Sammy” Santosh. Santosh is a 2021 MBA candidate with a concentration in marketing. She worked in advertising as an account manager in Richmond, Va., before moving to Maryland to pursue her MBA.